My in-laws bought Blackberry Farm in 1976. Back then, it was a super-small team. My mother-in-law cooked and rode a riding lawnmower with her son, Sam—my future husband. Sam and I started dating in high school. When he got into the California Culinary Academy, we moved to California. But he was always so excited to make a home on the farm. We returned to Tennessee in 2001, when Sam took over from his parents, and built our home on the farm in 2007.
For years, my role was supporting Sam. He’d be at the Barn—the restaurant— until 2 a.m. I’d get up with the kids and get them ready for school (though he’d somehow drag himself out of bed to see them off most days). I have a master’s in accounting, but I consulted on our retail stores and interior design. Blackberry Farm was our life. It’s not like Sam worked somewhere else, left each morning, and didn’t come home until the evening. Sam dreamed about it being a family business forever.
The day Sam passed away started off as a normal day. At 4:45 a.m., he left for a skiing trip in Colorado. We kissed goodbye.
I will remember that kiss for the rest of my life.
That afternoon, I was going to pick up my son and his friend, and the friend Sam had gone skiing with called. He said Sam had had a terrible accident and was dead.
I thought it was a horrible joke. I didn’t believe him. I started screaming and shouting. I drove home for 35 minutes, praying, crying.
I had to make the two worst phone calls of my life to Sam’s parents. Then